Homeless and Back Again
I woke up hung over on June 12, 2012. I didn’t like the way I felt,
but after a couple glasses of orange juice (which were mostly vodka),
I felt better. I had no plans, nowhere to go, no one to see or talk to
and was resigned to lay on the couch in front of the TV and drink. If
the alcohol wasn’t enough to numb my pain and self-hatred, staring at
the TV would distract me.
I was disgusted with myself. I had woken up in my car after drinking,
driving and blacking out. It was a miracle I made it to my own
driveway. I had failed again. Couldn’t I stay sober just one day? And
my dogs. Oh, wow, my dogs. Did I feed them last night? Did they have
to go potty and hold it all night since I was gone? My dogs were the
only thing I loved back then. They were my only friends. They loved me
when no one else could or would. Again, I’m failing them. I hadn’t
walked them for a week. I hated myself for this, too. I know I
deserved nothing, not even their love. I deserved to die alone. I
spent a solid hour thinking about how I could accomplish this.
At around 1 pm, I heard a knock at my door. Shoot. It’s the cops, I
thought. Oh no, what had I done? I didn’t budge from the sofa, but the
knocking persisted. I looked through the window to see my parents and
my little sister. I couldn’t hide. They knew I was home because my
dogs were barking and the TV was on. I hesitated but finally opened
the door. Ugh, I hated seeing the disappointment, sadness and fear on
their faces. I had nothing to say.
My sister, Kristy, on the other hand, had lots to say: “You’re going
to the Crisis Shelter. We don’t trust you to be alone. You’ll continue
drinking and driving. You’re going to kill yourself and maybe someone
I made excuses: Who will take care of my dogs?
I’d been making excuses for myself for years now. My family wasn’t
buying them. They insisted I go. I was out of money and would soon be
on the street or living with one of them. I decided a bit of time at
the shelter would help me re-group.
I felt nauseated and dizzy as I stumbled around packing a bag in
silence. I could hear whispers in the other room. I noticed on the
drive over, the buildings were beginning to look rundown, and when we
arrived at the Crisis Shelter, I knew I’d hit the bottom of the
barrel. How far I have fallen, I thought. My life is over.
My first impression of the Crisis Shelter was a broken down, ugly
place filled with what I considered “street people.” Sad women with no
teeth and lots of kids. Losers. Throwaway women. My family stood by
with tears in their eyes, holding hands for strength. Later I would
learn their impression was the same as mine, and they almost changed
their minds. But leave me they did.
I really am alone, I thought. I’m one of the throwaway people. Even my
family wants to get rid of me. And who can blame them?
I walked to my room, and as I walked, I noticed the sign out front,
“Hope starts here.” Yeah, right!
There were six scary women in my room. I had a towel, worn sheets, a
blanket and a stained pillow. One bathroom. Dirty blue carpet. The
only light was a single lamp with a dull bulb and no shade. I shut my
eyes. I wanted to see nothing, feel nothing, to forget I was in this
place with these people.
I spent three months at the Crisis Shelter. Yes, it really was true.
Hope started in that place. I began to believe I might have a future
and I actually wanted one. I began to believe Jesus was real and that
He loved me. When I left the Shelter, I had been sober for three
months. A good beginning, and I will be forever grateful to the Crisis
Shelter and its staff for welcoming me with open arms.
At 9 a.m. on August 27, 2012, I pulled up to what I thought was an old
mansion. Impressive, I thought, and once inside, I knew my time at
Anna Ogden Hall would be quite different than my time at the Crisis
I remember walking through the dining room and thinking, “There’s
nothing wrong with these ladies. They look normal. They’re clean,
nicely dressed and well kept. What could be wrong with them?” Then
again, I looked “normal” too, and I knew how messed up I was. At least
now I wasn’t escaping the pain through drugs or alcohol.
The sign on my door said, “Welcome home.” Is it possible they really
feel that way? I thought. As I put my clothes away in a dresser with
drawers instead of a plastic tote, I realized I was afraid. Perhaps
even more afraid than I had been upon entering the Crisis Shelter.
Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of not being accepted. Afraid of
failure. Afraid of my feelings.
My room was awesome – clean, nice furniture. No more writing on my
bed; I had an actual desk. The welcome basket included a brand new
towel, and I was particularly grateful to see that my pillow was
stain-free. Everything about the place said that someone cared about
me, was willing to invest in me.
At dinner, the other residents introduced themselves and welcomed me.
Some offered hugs; others shared their stories. All of them made me
feel a part of something, something I couldn’t quite put words to.
That night, as I pondered my first day in this new home, I realized
that the people at Anna Ogden Hall thought I was a worthwhile human
being. Maybe I still have something to offer this world after all, I
I went to sleep that night in a comfortable bed, and I thanked God for
the journey that had brought me to this place. I felt safe. I felt
hope growing inside the broken parts of me. Tears rolled down my
cheeks. Happy tears. Tears of relief. Tears of gratitude. Tears of
I had found my home for the next two years.
Update: Lesa graduated from UGM Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall,
got a job, moved into an apartment of her own and is back on her feet.
Homeless no more.